Mark Bego: Bonnie Raitt: Still in the Nick of Time (Cooper Square Press)

Woe betide the biographer who identifies too closely with his subject, as Mark Bego does in Bonnie Raitt: Still in the Nick of Time, an updated edition of which just issued from Cooper Square Press. That way lies disaster.

Translation: this biography of the uncategorizable musician behind such releases as Nick of Time (1989) and Luck of the Draw (1991) makes uneasy reading. Sloppy writing, frankly, mars the bio; in particular, it brims with what grammarians and other fussbudgets would flag as dangling modifiers-leading one to suspect the population of competent editors is fast dwindling. Moreover, tonally, Bego fawns like a pup rescued from the pound, and he exhibits a deadly affection for the exclamation point. (Might a discerning reader find his prose effusive? Assuredly not!!!)

Where Raitt's own voice comes to the fore, happily, things start to swing, as one would expect from a woman who has distinguished herself both in her music and in her activism for such causes as the anti-nuclear movement, environmentalism, and the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. By way of example, Bego retails the following Raitt commentary, a 1988 quotation from Frets: "One of the reasons I like to play slide guitar, what drew me to it in the first place, was the fact that it sounded like a human voice crying-it was very evocative. Especially when you're singing about something that's so intensely personal that you have to stop singing and play instead. It takes over for the voice." More such commentary would have strengthened the volume.

Still, as a reviewer, one perforce plays the hand dealt, not the hand desired. Including more than two dozen black-and-white photographs, a 28-page discography, 19 pages of source notes, and an index, Bonnie Raitt: Still in the Nick of Time tops 300 pages. For this edition, the back matter has been updated, and Bego has added a 45-page thirteenth chapter which carries his subject from 1995, the publication date of the original, to last year and which, among other things, sketches the mysterious end of her happily-ever-after marriage to actor Michael O'Keefe. ("[B]y 2002," notes Bego, "neither Raitt's official Web site, nor O'Keefe's own Web site, even mentioned the other one's name." Hmm.)

Serviceable but tedious, it's a flawed bio of an artist who deserves better.

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